Sunday, December 19, 2010

Peacekeepers ordered out of Ivory Coast

The man who refuses to step down from the presidency ordered thousands of UN peacekeepers to leave Ivory Coast immediately today.

Laurent Gbagbo called the global body that endorsed his political rival an "agent of destabilisation".

The move was the latest act of political defiance by Gbagbo, who has been in power since 2000 and maintains he is the rightful winner of last month's run-off vote in the West African nation despite growing international pressure on him to concede defeat.

The statement read on state television came just two days after as many as 30 people were killed in street violence in Ivory Coast.

Earlier today, masked gunmen opened fire on the UN base; no one from the UN was harmed in the attack.

Gbagbo's spokeswoman said today that the UN mission known as UNOCI has not remained neutral in the election dispute and accused it of arming the New Forces rebels allied with opposition leader Alassane Ouattara.

The United Nations certified results showing that Ouattara had won by "an irrefutable margin." The UN had been invited by the country itself to supervise the vote and certify the outcome following a peace accord after Ivory Coast's 2002-2003 civil war.

"The state of Ivory Coast considers that the UNOCI has shown itself to be guilty of serious misconduct, which indubitably proves that it is an agent of destabilisation and contributes to the further division of the Ivorian people," she said.

In New York, UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy was holding an emergency meeting of his department's crisis team to discuss a response to Gbagbo's request, said a UN official.

There are about 9,000 UN peacekeepers in the country, and about 800 of them have been protecting the compound from which Ouattara is trying to govern the country.

Gbagbo also called for the departure of about 900 French forces who have been supporting the UN peacekeepers.

While the United States, France and the African Union have endorsed Ouattara as the rightful winner of the election, Gbagbo maintains control of both the military and state media.

African News Desk - Peacekeepers ordered out of Ivory Coast

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